I’ve been talking about Resurgence, so why divergence today to what might seem off-topic? Answer: because it’s not. I’m setting the stage for the next group of resurgent men for the black community, ones with a different function than cleats on the ground. It’s not a political post per se, but I want to talk about 7 keys to understanding Trump, both as our President and just as a person. Bear with me please, Christians, and you’ll understand.
While the election was going on and writers like David Brooks and George Will were marching in lockstep with other NeverTrumpers, and nationally-known pastors and Bible teachers, too, were verbally ripping Trump limb from limb, some of you may have hated my posts about grace and Christian witness. Who was I? Just a Nobody talking about prayer, Christian witness, and God’s grace. And why was I doing it? Because after the Inauguration, that’s all any Christian would have left to show for him/herself before God, isn’t it? Irrespective of who won. Wisdom trumps prejudice. (Matthew 11:19)
So publicly I was writing, but behind the scenes, I was praying and engaging in a deep dive of learning about this man Trump who was elected that night in November. Just as in seminary we study hermeneutics to unlock Scripture, Americans would benefit from finding the keys to unlocking, to understanding Trump.
Without these keys, journalists, pastors, and just knees-on-the-ground-Christians trying to pray our way through this will fail to appreciate what God may be doing and just end up confused, aimless, and angry like the whiny white women’s march.
Or end up joining something stupid like Michael Moore’s 100 Days of Resistance campaign. (Just a little advice from your Seminary Gal: Rebelling against God’s work is always a bad idea. And Michael Moore seems to have cornered the market on bad ideas unless George Soros still has some more up his sleeve).
So after studying while other Christians were busy criticizing, here they are–what I would call 7 Keys for Understanding Trump:
He’s a developer who sees potential in others.
To him, a wrecking ball and a bulldozer are a means of clearing away what’s presently not fit for habitation (in order to create a firm foundation for building something new). On the surface, everything to Trump is a negotiation for a “deal” but slow the pace down and we see snapshot moments of development. But he doesn’t develop alone. He sees the potential in other people and vast human capital just waiting to be invested in a worthy cause and he deals in order to lead people to a wise and results-oriented investment of themselves. As a Christian, I look at the private faith of Trump and I have no idea if he knows that this is how God does discipleship. Whether Trump knows why he’s doing it or if it just comes naturally to him (or God’s gift even?), he’s developing people because he sees their potential. God takes broken people, gives them new birth, and then equips them for work…all because God sees the potential in every single image-bearer. Trump –whether he knows it or not—gets what God is doing. God is building an eternal house (2 Corinthians 5:1-18, especially verses 1 and 17) and develops using reclaimed materials.
He’s a visionary.
Trump sees beyond what-is-now to what things can be … after he’s finished building. He has a clear vision of American greatness—the goodness we can be to each other and for the world—and how together, we can be better than a loose coalition or a jar of marbles. Trump casts a vision “Make America Great Again” with slogan-appeal, but the vision is not one he will do alone. Understanding Trump did not emphasize and exalt “I will MAGA”, but we. As a mighty engine of progress together we will do it, if we catch the vision of working together. In the private faith of Trump, I don’t know if he understands the spiritual power of unity and the beauty of delegation, but it’s biblical (Romans 12:1-13). We can’t do it on our own, but we can do it together. And with God’s wisdom, we delight in delegating to achieve the vision. God says we’re “living stones” for a “spiritual house.”
1 Peter 2: 4 As you come to him, the living Stone– rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus said our unity is what tells the world we belong to Him (John 17:20-23). Does Trump understand development of people as his calling or is he just doing what comes naturally? I don’t know, but unity, diversity, and delegation are biblical and that’s God’s vision (Ephesians 4:1-13) if only we’ll catch it.
He’s a change agent who can’t stand incompetence.
Change is by its very nature painful. Trump is not intending to make things painful for America, but fighting the molars because they hurt won’t prevent their coming in. We suffer through the growing pains to achieve something more, something greater. For Christians, it’s an eternal weight of glory. No pain no gain as it were. Yeah. It’s biblical too (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18).
Trump is willing to work hard through the tough stuff and the hard choices to do his best for excellence. He is a leader who wants results. He dares to imagine others doing the same. And yes, it’s biblical.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
In his private faith, does he understand that faith in God and being born-again results in powerful, effective, and radical change? Not a mere tweaking but a total overhaul. I don’t know about Trump’s private faith and I can’t read his mind, but I know the change God made in my heart (Galatians 2:20) and it wasn’t tweaking.
He’s a brand manager and it’s all about the brand.
This is a huge key for understanding Trump! In his business life, he’s built the Trump brand and he sees his presidency as an extension of his name. He’s zealous for it. His whole family gets the brand manager concept and their Instagram accounts and followers are evidence they do. Understanding Trump means seeing that he’s got something to prove and therefore he will work to build that brand of executive-branch style presidency that commands the desk in a suit and tie and he doesn’t put his feet up on the furniture. It’s a brand that transcends talk and achieves results for his constituency. That’s why he adopts a zero-time approach to addressing attacks upon his personal brand of presidency. It’s not random attack, thin skin, or a huge ego, it’s how brand managers protect the brand. He views any attack upon the brand as an attack upon his constituency. Crowd size wasn’t his ego. Crowd size was his supporters, and his defense of them—that “basket of deplorables”–is what propelled him to victory in the first place. Whatever the label, whatever the brand, a zeal for protecting and a love of what is God-honoring is good.
What’s in a name? Maybe nothing to a rose, but to Trump, it means a lot. And it’s biblical: the Name of the LORD is of utmost importance to God (Ezekiel 39:25) which is why the Third Commandment (Exodus 20:1-17) tells us not to misuse it. Furthermore, people called by God’s Name are important to the LORD, 2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Does Trump in his private faith understand this? I don’t know but he cares about his name, loves his family, loves his friends with a loyal love, and protects that brand image in everything he does.
He understands the world has changed because of social media. He views the world of information and news differently. Twitter trending, for example, don’t take into account positives or negatives…only numbers. In the long haul, people forget the negatives and just see the popular topic and remember the name. He also knows that information overload will take a toll on any group’s ability to mount an attack. When journalists are always on their heels trying to drink out of a firehose of news, unable to predict the random shot of a perceived loose cannon, they’re unable to keep up as the hits just keep on coming. As the pack of media hounds runs after the narrative bone with a bit of red meat, the independent journalists who are worth speaking to will remain and listen to what’s substantive. In that regard, he’s not shooting from the hip, he’s sorting and he’s using media to do it. It’s not without biblical precedent (Luke 8:10). When Jesus spoke in parables, it’s not because He couldn’t figure out the right words to convey meaning. He was using words to sort people’s hearts.
Even if there’s a godly end to such means, it’s tough for Bible-believing Christians to embrace what are insulting and careless words. I wish the world were different because if everyone only did good things and spoke only the truth, such means would be unnecessary. But some people believe the fake news and moreover want to believe it so they will even create it. They love the lie and the politics more than they love the truth. About such end times behaviors, the Bible tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:10 b “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
Most of us in the Christian community are uncomfortable, if we’re honest, about the idea of God’s sending delusions, causing disaster (Isaiah 45:7), bringing calamity (2 Samuel 12:11), using people’s propensity for deception and falsehood (Genesis 27:19), and even Jesus’ using parables to create an unequal playing field of understanding to harden people’s hearts. Our discomfort doesn’t mean God can’t use it.
Trump is often trashed as insane and stupid, but every businessman knows that “knowledge is power” and keeping cards close to the vest conserves power. The random element may not be stupidity or insanity at all, but a power play in the art of the deal. Maybe he is already thinking a few steps ahead. A fine line exists between genius and insanity. Three great quotes, maybe four, offer insight here:
- “There was never a great genius without a touch of madness.” (Seneca the Younger)
- “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.” (Arthur Schopenhauer)
- “Creativity is just learning to do something with a different perspective.” (Dr. Benjamin Carson)
Then there’s Winston Churchill’s quotation about Russia (and who can talk about understanding Trump without bringing Russia into it somewhere?). From a radio broadcast from October 1, 1939 which might apply to understanding Trump: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”
Donald Trump is an enigmatic–but also a genuinely patriotic–American looking to act in America’s best national interest as best as he can tell. Hard to see, perhaps, but understanding Trump requires looking outside of the box more than in the bottom of it. You see, a genius is not someone who is exceptionally smart or exceedingly talented. A genius isn’t necessarily better at thinking than the general public. They just think differently. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point that President Trump values innovation, thinks differently, and keeps his plans and strategies close to the vest. That too is a biblical idea (Matthew 24:36) since God’s ways (Isaiah 55:9) are even harder to understand than President Trump’s.
The final of 7 keys for understanding Trump that I’ve found so far is that he’s not a political person. He’s less about political consensus of governance by committee and more about leading a committee and getting stuff done. Blasphemy to many in the DC bubble and a huge liability to those who love to govern by trial balloons, think tanks, and focus groups, but it is also his perceived greatest strength in flyover country. Understanding Trump is a vision caster and a delegator on a very simple mission to build and protect the American brand. If he has to make deals with the political left or the political right to do it, so long as it’s in the best interest of building toward the goal of being winners, the color of the ribbon being cut can be red, white, and blue. And hey, if it can be highest quality, on time and under budget, then we’re all winners, yes?
Understanding Trump in this way, we see a great irony that this man who
- once called himself a Democrat,
- ran as a Republican
- as an apolitical non-conservative anti-establishment figure,
- and now he’s building a cabinet and Supreme Court far more conservative than conservative presidents before him
- getting more socially conservative policies accomplished than would have been electable in a normal year,
- and he’s bringing together disparate groups into the very big-tent Republican party they claimed they always wanted but didn’t have the guts to reach out and deal with because they were always being political… which Trump is not.
Understanding Trump via these 7 keys won’t make the riddle less mysterious, the days any less turbulent, but maybe those of us who are knees-on-the-ground Christians can all breathe easier and just find something to enjoy in the wild ride of the next four years as we pray like saints for God to guide him to discern America’s and the world’s best interests…not as Trump, but as God sees them. Amen?